The world shutting down brought out the productivity in Cloud Nothings. The Cleveland band have never been especially slack when it comes to recording new music. In the twelve years they’ve been banging out tuneful noise, they’ve only let more than two calendar years pass between albums once. Then 2020 did its soul-withering 2020 thing. Dylan Baldi, frontman for Cloud Nothings, starting swapping audio files back and forth with the band’s drummer, Jayson Gerycz. Once the
material was fully fleshed out, it was released in July as The Black Hole Understands. Five months later, some of the leftover tracks were assembled into the full-length Life is Only One Event. Now, just a couple more months down the timeline, Cloud Nothings is offering fresh stock for the record bins again, with The Shadow I Remember.
If the prior two releases represented necessity-is-the-mother-of-invention variance from their usual processes, then the latest album is a retrenchment. Cloud Nothings enlisted Steve Albini as a producer and recorded The Shadow I Remember at his Electrical Audio Studio in Chicago, effectively recreating the circumstances of Attack on Memory, the band’s 2012 breakthrough. As might be expected, the album feels familiar, dosing out blast of rock music with punk roots and emo frosted tips. I’m not complaining. The Shadow I Remember offers the assurance that, friends, it ain’t broke.
The album opens “Oslo”: a smear of distorted guitar, an Albini speciality, smothering a gentle piano line. Baldi sings, “The world I know has gone away/ An outline of my own decay/ The body’s broke and the blood is warm/ Is this the end of the life I’ve known?” The track builds to explosive, wondrous sounds that are simultaneously chaotic and tightly controlled. It’s a fine opening salvo forecasting the cascade of well-hewn rock songs to come: the jagged “Sound of Alarm,” grinding lament “Am I Something,” and fiercely ragged “The Spirit Of.” On “Nothing Without You” picks up the bubblegum grudge perfected by the Get Up Kids two decades ago on Something to Write Home About — and then quickly abandoned in favor of slushy yuck — and gives it fresh spit polish to suit these modern times.
In the most cursory analysis, The Shadow I Remember doesn’t offer a new perspective on Cloud Nothings. It is more of the same chunky, satisfying music they’ve been making for a long time. Taken with the rest of their recent output, though, it does invite a descriptor that isn’t often applied to current rock bands: indefatigable.